Elderly meals get healthy dose of nutrition advice

The quality of meals served to old people is set to improve – at least that is the aim of guidelines published today. They advise how many calories each meal should contain as well as advice on key ingredients, such as fruit and vegetables, salads and protein.

The aim is to standardise meals to ensure elderly people receive all the nutrients they need. Research has shown that hundreds of thousands of old people in the UK are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition.

The guidelines have been published by the National Association of Care Catering (NACC), which represents firms and professionals supplying meals to local authority care homes, people's own homes and day centres.

Each meal served at lunch or dinner should contain a minimum of 300 calories, 15g of protein and include a good source of starch and a minimum of an 80g serving of vegetables, according to the guidelines. Desserts other than fruit should provide at least 200 calories, and breakfast should carry a minimum of 380 calories and 8g of protein.

Five portions of fruit and vegetables should be available each day as well as a minimum of seven drinks, the guidelines say. The nutritional standard also calls on caterers to take account of particular dietary needs and medical conditions which require special diets.